Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, like all government departments, the Inland Revenue is fully committed to monitoring the take-up of the new tax credits among ethnic communities. It is important to get that on the record. Inland Revenue officials are continuing to discuss with the relevant community and interest groups the best way to achieve this. When those discussions have been completed, it may be of interest and help to your Lordships if I write and give details of the conclusions of those discussions.

As your Lordships are aware, there is a legislative obligation on the Inland Revenue and other departments to assess their policies and functions and to publish assessments, consultations and monitoring with a view on how these impact on race equality. That obligation arises out of the provisions of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. Under that Act, the Inland Revenue must publish and implement a race equality scheme, the aim of which is to eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different racial groups. That scheme was published on 31st May of this year and can be found on the Inland Revenue website.

Behind all this is the wider question of outreach and so on as opposed to monitoring. The Inland Revenue is fully committed to ensuring that the take-up of tax credits is increased among ethnic communities. Indeed, the department is already undertaking a number of initiatives to ensure that that happens. The development of the publicity campaign for new tax credits has included work to improve the targeting of messages to ethnic groups. The department has identified and carried out research which supports plans to target those most likely to contain the highest concentration of potential tax credit recipients but with the lowest penetration of messages from mainstream sources. Publicity directed at these groups will be specifically tailored both in terms of language and for a cultural fit.

Alongside this, the mainstream campaign will seek to be as inclusive as possible by representing the diversity of the UK population in its imagery and will include the use of ethnic media where appropriate. The department will also be supporting the role of intermediaries, such as community advice workers and local authorities, through the provision of support materials and background information. Where appropriate, material will be available in foreign languages.

So I hope I can assure noble Lords regarding the efforts being made by the Inland Revenue and by other government departments. In my own department I have been involved in looking at diversity policies and so on. Therefore, I am very aware of the concentrated and consistent efforts now being made by government.

13 Jun 2002 : Column 466

The noble Lord is right. There has been a shift in attitude as to the propriety of this approach. Certainly, in my own field I often find that the one area that I do not know about is X and its implication for ethnic minority families—whether they are large families, whether it is a question of payment of child support moneys, or whatever. We have simply not collected that information, perhaps through the wrong approach in terms of sensitivities. As a result, we are now handicapped in our ability to develop policies which specifically respond to their needs.

To give an assurance to the noble Lord, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires us to do exactly that for which the noble Lord is calling. This aspect of the annual report would be published in accordance with the Inland Revenue's obligations under the Race Equality Scheme. I believe that it will provide the noble Lord with the detailed information that he seeks. I am happy to write to him on the details of the Inland Revenue's ethnic minority monitoring plans and to provide him with a copy of the Race Equality Scheme. With that additional information, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment. It is a very useful one. I am glad to have the opportunity to put these points on the record.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. So far as concerns the lack of statistics, her reply suggests that the Inland Revenue—and other departments too—will seek to remedy that deficiency.

What I am not quite clear about is whether a report in the form suggested by the amendment—or, indeed, a report at all, other than in the normal Inland Revenue report—will be available. When we discussed reports earlier, the noble Baroness described what was asked for as a "scissors and paste job". I am not clear whether she is saying that a report of the kind that we seek in the amendment already exists, whether it is possible for people to put it together, or whether one could simply accept the amendment. While I fully accept, as I believe the noble Earl will, that the Minister's reply is forthcoming and welcome, I am still not absolutely sure whether she is saying that she is prepared to accept the amendment or whether she thinks that existing information is in a form that makes it readily available.

I am not suggesting that all members of ethnic minorities will read this legislation when it is eventually passed, but there might be some argument for having such a provision on the face of the Bill, simply to make clear the good intentions of those on all sides of the House.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the point I was making was not that I disagree with the amendment, but that, as is occasionally the case, the amendment is redundant. The Inland Revenue is already required to do what the noble Lord has called for under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000; namely, departments are required to produce their race equality scheme, which includes information about take-up, monitoring and so forth. We published the scheme on the website on 31st May 2002. It may be

13 Jun 2002 : Column 467

that, between now and Third Reading, the noble Lord—who I am sure is more of a computer expert than I and, I gather, the noble Earl, Lord Russell—will be able to see whether this meets his concerns. Developing that further—that is, ensuring that we get the fullest publicity, outreach and take-up by ethnic minorities—is not just about publishing the information; it is about working with groups and with the media to have that effect.

As I said, I hope that I have allayed the noble Lord's concerns. This matter is of great importance. The amendment as it stands is redundant, because departments are already required under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 to do that for which he is calling. Over and beyond that, there is the equally important task of ensuring that tax credits are brought to the attention of ethnic communities in our society. I believe that the Inland Revenue has well-founded schemes in place.

My own department too has great experience of this and we are used to seeking to build up this information. The pity is that we did not have this information five years ago.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, again, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I shall take up her suggestion that I should consult the website. I am not sure that I am any more computer literate than either the noble Baroness or the noble Earl.

I am inclined to ask: will the information appear in the variety of languages for which those concerned with this issue might wish? But I am rather deterred by that. A few nights ago, I was surfing the Web—I believe that is the expression—and the information came up in French. I was rather worried by this, but then it came up with a nice option saying that it was available in other languages. I selected English, and it said: "This is an English translation which has been done automatically from the French. Lord Higgins is a member of the Preserving Party"! It is absolutely true. So it can be surprising what people say about one on websites. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 [Tax credits; consequential amendments]:

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 137:

    Page 46, line 5, leave out paragraphs 4 to 7.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister will be glad to know that this is the last of a series of amendments which effectively seek to delete from the Bill amendments which the Government wished to insert in Grand Committee. We have debated various issues of this sort. In Grand Committee, we agreed that for convenience we should describe the numerous government amendments under various categories. These ones come under category 5—which I for one am glad to say is the last category we were discussing.

These amendments reflect two points. First, as we well know, the government amendments were tabled very late. Secondly, some of them referred to Part 2 of the Bill, which was not discussed at all in another place. That was a matter of considerable concern and

13 Jun 2002 : Column 468

I delivered a rather long and passionate speech about it in Committee. The House will be glad to know that I do not plan to repeat that speech. However, it would be helpful for the Minister and for the other place when it comes to consider these amendments—of which it has hitherto been unaware—if the noble Baroness would very rapidly summarise what these various amendments do. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, these amendments reverse a number of minor and technical amendments agreed to in Grand Committee. The amendments fall broadly into two categories. As the noble Lord said, Amendments Nos. 137, 153, 170 and 172 reverse consequential amendments relating to various Northern Ireland legislation. As he also said, in Committee I described those as the fifth category of government amendments. The remaining amendments reverse changes that are consequential on two matters, the abolition of WFTC and DPTC and the replacement of SERPS with the state second pension. I should like to deal with those amendments first.

On SERPS, Section 45A of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and its Northern Ireland counterpart provide that WFTC and DPTC may be taken into account when calculating the earnings factor relating to SERPS entitlement. As we are both abolishing WFTC and reforming SERPS, consequential amendments are clearly necessary. I shall be happy to describe those in more detail if the noble Lord so wishes. In summary, however, both WFTC and DPTC are going, as is SERPS. We therefore need to re-label the amendments. Is that sufficient explanation for the noble Lord on that aspect of the amendments?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page